Today we are stepping away from our journey through the Sermon on the Mount to talk about something that I believe is fundamental to your sanctification, to your becoming like Jesus in your life, and that is baptism. Next Sunday, immediately following Church, all of you are invited and encouraged to re-congregate at Central Park to celebrate the work of Jesus Christ through at least two of our members. My hope for today is that this sermon will spur more of you to consider your need to be baptized, not as a baby, but as a born again Christian.
Now with this said, there is not enough time for me to speak exhaustively about all the theology as it relates to baptism in one sermon. Therefore, I ask for your grace if he do not hear me saying something that you wish would be said. The hardest part of preaching is not coming up with 40 minutes of material; it is limiting it to only 40 minutes, which as you know I fail to do from time to time.
Our text for today is Romans 6:1-14. As always, let us read our text and pray that God’s Word would shine on our hearts are reveal to us His truth.
- Romans 6:1-14 – “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
- Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”
- Romans 2:28 – “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.”
- Romans 3:23-25 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. “
- Romans 3:28 – “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
- Romans 4:16 – “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring”
- Romans 5:1 – “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Having said this, if baptism is not necessary for justification before God, why did Jesus himself implement it, and not only implement it, but command it? If you recall, baptism is a part of the great commission, which are the last marching orders of Jesus.
- Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
What is Baptism?
To keep it simple, baptism is a symbol. What is a symbol? It is something that represents or stands for something else. A symbol is not the real thing, but it reminds you of the real thing.
When you think about it, the Bible is full of symbols. The rainbow is a symbol of the covenant between God and man regarding not flooding the earth. Circumcision is a symbol of God’s covenant with ethnic Israel. The ark of the covenant was the symbol of God’s covenant presence with ethnic Israel. Communion is the symbol of the new covenant of the blood and body of Jesus.
Our God frequently speaks to us by using symbols, and this is how I want you to think about baptism. I want you to think about it as God speaking. It is his ceremony, and he wants his ceremony to tell you and tell the world something. This is why I have titled my message today Baptism, the Visible Word. For those who are taking our systematic theology class on Sunday mornings you will recognize that I borrowed that word from Dr. John Frame. But this is how I want us at Cornerstone to understand baptism, it is God's visible Word to the World and to us.
So with that said, what is God saying through baptism? What does this visible word proclaim? Simply put, it proclaims the inward reality of a believer’s union with Jesus Christ, and this union begins with your death.
Baptized into Death
Look at Romans 6:3-14 and see the times that death is mentioned.
- Verse 3 - baptized into his death?
- Verse 4 - We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death
- Verse 5 - united with him in a death
- Verse 6 - old self was crucified with him
- Verse 7 - For one who has died
- Verse 8 - Now if we have died with Christ,
- Verse 11 - consider yourselves dead to sin
- Verse 13 - brought from death to life
- Romans 6:6 – “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.“
What is the old self? Look again at verse 6. The best description of the old self is a slave to sin. Before my union with Christ, the best and most comprehensive way to describe who I was, was to say that Phil Parsons was a slave to sin. Sin had complete and utter authority in my life. I was chained to it. Nothing I did, glorified God. Listen to Ephesians 2:1-2 which is a great description of the old self.
- Ephesians 2:1-2 – “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—“
Raised to Life
The second part that God is proclaiming through Baptism is the newness of life.
- Verse 4 - walk in newness of life.
- Verse 5 - united with him in a resurrection like his.
- Verse 8 - we will also live with him.
- Verse 13 - brought from death to life
And all of this happens at the moment of conversion. At that moment that you hear the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and you place your entire life in the hands of the son of God there is a cataclysmic change in your life. One minute you are dead, and the next minute you are alive. The old self is gone and a new life has begun, and this is what baptism is a symbol of. This is what baptism is pointing to. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality of a born again, believer of Jesus Christ.
However, the questions remains, why did Jesus implement a ceremony that points to this internal reality. Why does he command that each and everyone who becomes a disciple to find water, be dunked under and be lifted out? As I said earlier, baptism is a symbol of our justification but is for the purpose of sanctification.
- Romans 6: 11-14 - “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
Having said that these people were not perfect. They were redeemed yes, but they still struggled with their flesh, there sin. These people were justified before the Lord, but they were not perfect. They struggled with living a holy life to the Lord. God had begun a good work in them, but He had not completed it. This struggle with sin is true for every Christians who has accepted Christ. We are eternally saved, but we are not instantly perfect. Listen to what Jesus prays for the night of his arrest I regards to his disciples.
- John 17:17 – Sanctify them in your truth, your Word is truth.”
It is the visible Word of baptism that Paul is telling those is Rome to remember as they struggle with their sin. He wants them to look back and remember who they are. He wants them to remember that they are no longer of the World. They are no longer slaves to sin. Paul wants them to consider themselves dead. They must instead live their life as if sin has no dominion over us. They must walk in newness of life and present ourselves to the Lord, not to Satan.
And this is why Jesus commands that all disciples to immediately participate in this act of baptism, not because Jesus is all about rituals, but because he is all about sanctification. For some reason, we in our weakness tend to forget who we are in Jesus. We, at times, struggle to act in a way that matches our identity in Christ. Baptism helps us to remember. When we accept Jesus into our hearts it happens on the inside. Baptism brings that internal reality to the outside so that you can look back and understand that the old self is dead, so leave him dead.
And this is why all believers should participate in a believers baptism, not just an infant baptism. You are undermining the gift of God's visible word. Infant baptism carries no message for you. It is not a symbol of your conversion, it is a symbol of your parents religion. If you have given your life to Christ, allow that visible Word of God to be proclaimed so that when Satan comes knocking on your door you can look back and remember who you are in Christ.